Lispian Random meanderings on whatever catches my fancy

Rant: Why I Love and Hate Religion At The Same Time

Those that know me well know I’m fairly religious. It tends to drive my overly atheist friends nuts, but I’m also a great foil for one atheist friend who uses me to take the opposite side from what he’s called indignant, ignorant atheists who seem more focused on simply belittling anyone who believes in God, usually by claiming anyone who believes in God is anti-science.

Although I could rant on that stupidity for a good, long while I won’t. I’ll just say if anyone who is an atheist believes you can’t be a scientist or pro-science and be religious well, they’re morons of the highest order. It takes a special bit of ignorance to believe science and faith are an either-or proposition.

In general I love religion and faith for a variety of reasons. The greatest is that religious belief has brought the world a lot of good, much more than many petty, vindictive and rather ignorant atheists are willing to admit. One need only look at the great art, architecture, literature, etc. to comprehend the beauty and deep emotion faith can stir and the creative juices that flow from such belief. One need only look at the likes of Newton to comprehend how someone could be utterly brilliant, who took the world forward scientifically all while being utterly committed to his Christian faith. Similarly one can look at all the men in the monasteries of the Middle Ages who moved science, math, reason, philosophy forward providing us with the very basis for misnamed Renaissance. If it were not for the likes of the Merton Calculators, the Scholastics, and countless other monks and learned priests we would surely have suffered a dark age as opposed to the great advancements from 400AD to 1400AD, an era that produced the wonders of Chartres, the Magna Carta, eye glasses, crop rotation, the horse collar, the chimney, the stirrup, and countless other inventions.

But sadly, faith can be abused as we’ve seen over and over again. It is usually abused by those with the least amount of faith. It is used as a method of whipping up frenzies wherein God or some other holy individual is deemed to have been insulted and that only Earthly retribution can salve humiliations real or imagined.

My belief is that my God has no need of human protection. He doesn’t require anyone to take anyone else’s life, to make anyone else’s life miserable, to remove from any other human their rights of liberty, life, and freedom to express themselves or choose their faith — or lack thereof — openly and without constraint. My God, to quote Bono, is not short of cash. Nor is He short of an army.

If God truly said “Vengeance is mine” then perhaps we should just take him at his word. Obviously if you believe he created the Universe then for him taking care of anyone pesky enough to belittle or humiliate him should be of minor consequence, assuming He actually isn’t simply bemused by the belittling.

It’s why I simply shake my head in disbelief as certain factions around the world seem hell-bent on claiming their deity is unable to protect themselves without the personal intervention of humans. It’s ludicrous.

Furthermore, if one’s faith is so fragile that someone insulting it, belittling it, mocking it or otherwise being an ass about it results in such a strong emotional reaction one should seriously think whether the problem is a lack of faith. I have no problems if someone mocks my faith or otherwise presents themselves in what I view as a childish manner. It’s their right. They can be as ignorant as they want. More power to them, especially since it’s claimed ignorance is bliss so they’re obviously on the path to bliss. But to want to hurt someone because he or she disagrees with my faith proposition is insane. I don’t like a lot of things said about a lot of things but never have I wanted to actually become violent over it. Some things have seriously disgusted me — like the Urine Christ — and yet it was, in my view, something done to provoke. It had little lasting appeal because the person who did it was simply out to be as insulting as possible. Such a position is worthless as it provides no valid point against which to hold a meaningful, reasoned discussion. The desire to only invoke emotion is utterly childish, a sign of immaturity. An unwillingness to step back and say that a particular action is uncalled for, but still granting that the person doing the action has every right to do whatever stupid thing they’re doing.

I do comprehend that some people hold their holy books close. They are incensed that anyone would burn a copy, desecrate a copy, or otherwise ridicule anything within their book. I personally abhor the burning or desecrating of any book — books to me are well nigh sacred. Reading is sacred. Education is sacred. Thus, books as the foundation of learning and education are the most sacred. To do anything to a book other than read it, attempt to comprehend it, agree or disagree with aspects of it is sacrilegious, in fact it’s a crime against the core of any decent civilization and society. But to physically abuse or kill someone because they’ve done something boneheaded to your holy book is in and of itself evil. Responding to what someone views as a despicable act with a great evil is simply wrong. You cannot right the world by hating someone or something more. By lashing out and destroying that wish has hurt or insulted you. Hate is powerful, but it is destructive, empty, unsatisfying. It’s why all the greatest thinkers, be they religious or otherwise, have stated that Love is the greatest power. For to love someone is the hardest thing. For if you love what you view as the sinner then you can forgive them. And in so doing you belittle their action in the most effective way by making them look foolish, and that in and of itself most strengthens faith.

So if someone wants to stand up to the bullies that permeate cultures the best way is to love them while working to correct their childish, boorish ways so as to show them the right way: love one another. Accept our differences. And that will most assuredly disarm all but the most evil of individuals. And for those individuals all societies and civilizations have laws that can quickly ensure their long stay within the confines providing by society for those most willing to destroy just societies or the citizens thereof.

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October 2012
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